Kerry woman smuggled guns for Sean Mac Diarmada

The Killorglin woman who smuggled guns for Sean Mac Diarmada

By Owen O’Shea, Dr Mary McAuliffe and Bridget McAuliffe (eds of Kerry 1916)


Mairin Cregan and Jim Ryan
Mairin Cregan and Jim Ryan


Máirín Cregan was born in 1891 in Killorglin. From an early age she was interested in the Irish language and culture. On graduation, she became a teacher and by 1914 she was in Dublin studying at the Leinster School of Music. Cregan was among the prominent young Gaelic League and Sinn Féin enthusiasts who often gathered in the home of sisters Kit and Phyllis Ryan of the Ryans of Tomcoole, Co Wexford, a prominent nationalist family.


Among those who gathered there frequently were IRB leader Seán Mac Diarmada, Irish Volunteer Seán T. O’Kelly (whom Kit would marry) and other political and cultural leaders. Cregan was trusted by Mac Diarmada and used by him as a courier on important missions. 


On Holy Thursday, she arrived from Dublin to deliver dispatches from Seán Mac Diarmada to the head of the Kerry Volunteers Austin Stack, along with ‘a violin case full of automatics and ammunition.’ 

In Tralee, Cregan heard of Casement’s landing and arrest and, unable to make contact with Stack, she went home to Killorglin. There, later that Friday night, she heard the news ‘that a car had gone over Ballykissane Quay.’ Cregan got out of bed, made her way to Ballykissane and managed to find the driver of the car, Tommy McInerney. She got him to a house in Killorglin ‘… where he spent the night and where the injury to his leg was dressed. He remained up all night, dosing occasionally and rather shocked, but on the whole bluffing his way through police inquiries very well.’ Cregan spent the rest of week trying to make her way back to Dublin.


Following the Rising, Cregan was dismissed from her teaching post in St Louis, Rathmines, because of her republican sympathies. She found a new post in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal, and later in the Dominican College in Portstewart, Co Derry. In 1919, she married James (Jim) Ryan, brother of Kit and Phyllis, a medical student and Irish Volunteer who had fought in the GPO in 1916; he later became a Fianna Fáil TD and a minister in several governments.


As a member of Cumann na mBan in Wexford, Cregan was involved in activities during the War of Independence and was imprisoned in February 1921 and ordered to pay a fine for refusing to display a proclamation of martial law on her house. After the establishment of the Irish Free State, the Ryans moved to Kindlestown House in Delgany, Co Wicklow, where Cregan began her noted career of writing children’s stories in Irish. She died in 1975.




Kerry 1916: Histories and Legacies of the Easter Rising
A Centenary Record
Owen O’Shea, Dr Mary McAuliffe and Bridget McAuliffe (eds)
Publisher: Irish Historical Publications

Price €25.00


Kerry 1916: Histories and Legacies of the Easter Rising – A Centenary Record’  by Editors Bridget McAuliffe, Dr Mary McAuliffe and Owen O’Shea profile some of those arrested in Kerry in the aftermath of the Rising.

News & Events

University College Cork, Western Road, Cork, Ireland   |    +353(21) 480 2110   |
Copyright © UCC 2015/Irish Examiner 2015   |   Website by Doodle